Sunday, March 29, 2009

Portland is My Land

Dear Portland-
Happy Anniversary!
Not only is it the 150th anniversary of Oregon itself, but we are celebrating ten years of togetherness. Okay, maybe I'm just the one who's celebrating. You obviously have other things on your mind. Dude, I even got you a card! What did you give me? Grief! Okay, I'll calm down. I guess this means more to me than it does you. Insensitive brute...

And Portland, it's all because of you.

It's difficult to believe that a whole decade has done come and gone since I moved up here to this wettest of all possible worlds and now, I can honestly say to you that is this is the place I call home. Yeah, I said it. I can no longer call myself merely a Californian immigrant and must now claim my status as an Oregonian, third class. (or is it low class?) Yes, I have officially joined the ranks of the Hazlenutted Beavers and settled in Land of the Semi-Occasional Sun.

Y'see, I've grown fonder of you over time, even though you never made it easy on me. I wrote you an open letter to you many moons ago telling you so. (see blog post 3/19/05: Displaced in Dis Place)I grew up a little in that time and by gum, so did you, you damp rascal you.

Portland, you finally settled into your identity and you are so much the better for it. You no longer long to be Seattle and aren't pissed off because you couldn't be. You found your voice, one that probably lay silent from years of bitter jealousy and snotty indifference. You've become a gatherer and nurturer of independent spirit in the Northwest, inspiring creativity on all levels from the written word to food innovation to the great and wonderful art scene encompassing painting, music, theater and film...with a public that supports it all. I love it the way you embrace the weird.

Of course you've got your problems.

Recently, I had the horselaugh at the expense of my hometown, Stockton, being named Most Miserable City in the US by Forbes Magazine. Two weeks later, Business Week names you, dear Portlandia, Unhappiest City in America. This is based on double digit unemployment (Oregon placing the highest in the US), crime rate, weather (lack of sunshine), depression (according to insurance claims and doctor visits) and suicides (based on hotline calls and death stats). Jesus, Portland. Stockton may be miserable, but they're not unhappy. No wonder you used to be known as Sweden West.

Then there's that self-righteousness streak in politics and lifestyle choices that you haven't been able to shake. Sometimes, when you are at your most inclusive, you become your most exclusive. Sometimes it's like dealing with a room full of Bill Mahers. Then again, maybe it's your duality that makes you so special and infuriating at the same time.

Gosh. I must be starting really care about you. here I go making excuses for you already.

Things looked swell last November when your constituents voted in Sam Adams, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. Now many of them want to drum him out of office because he lied about having a tryst with an eighteen year old. "Hey, at least he was legal!" Adams cried in defense. Yeah. Barely. Said affair took place on the lad's 18th birthday. What kind of naive nitwit takes a chance like that before he gets elected, a job he'd been groomed for over the last decade, and lies about it when it comes to the fold, making the whole matter worse in the eyes of his own supporters? Talk about about blowing a big opportunity. Literally.It's too goddamn bad. I hope Adams can get past this big stink. He really showed what he was made out of during the big winter storm, helping you, Portland, get out of that icy mess and keep running before he even took the oath of office. Meanwhile, Tom Potter, the mayor in name only, was drunkenly packing all his shit up and giving a big middle finger to you, the only finger he lifted during that near-disaster. So Sam earned my respect during that period. Baptism by fire...and ice. I hope he gets over this hump, so to speak.

Over time, I've accumulated a list of things that I love about this place. Great people, including actual celebrities other than the TV newscasters who seem to be the only recognizable folk of previous years. We got your Academy Award nominated film director Gus van Sant, the gorgeous high priestess of rockdom Storm Large, Pink Martini, radio goddess Daria O'Neill- to name but a few. We got your various festivals. Sometimes it feels like one long party with a different celebration every single week. There are film festivals, beer fests, food fests, the month long Rose Festival, etc., etc. etc. I think there's even a Festival Festival-one that celebrates all things festive. Maybe it's all to compensate for the weather, though Portlanders party down in the rain also. They have to. Sometimes there's no choice. Add to this mixture incredible vistas around every turn and culture up the ying-yang, if that's your idea of a good time, and you got yourself a wondrous place that even rivals my beloved San Francisco.

As for me, the years have blown by way too quickly. We moved up here when my grandson, Sebastian (see blog post 11/3/08: The Great Sebastian), was born and who is now, well, ten and growing way too quickly. Some of the finest moments of my entire have been spent in his presence and I am the richer for it. I've been up long enough to form some relationships with some people, not as many as back in California, but that's my problem dealing with my anti-socialist nature. But there have been a couple close to me that have passed away in the last year, another mileage marker in my life and, well, their's as well.

Lew Bowen was my first boss when I applied to AAA Coffee Service, hiring me with absolutely no experience and not a clue in the goddamn world. I started out washing coffee pots and ending up managing an entire warehouse, moving the whole kit n' kaboodle to the other side of Portland when we were purchased by another company. I'll always be grateful to Lew for giving me a break when I really need one.

Then there's Jauna Gilnett, who we just lost last week, a true jewel of a human being. She really was the heart and soul of the department I now work at Providence Portland Hospital and one of the most decent, honestly good people I've ever met in my life.

Life isn't fair. It doesn't have to be. That's our responsibility.

Anyway, Portland, I just wanted to thank you too for making the most out of this last decade. I look forward to many more.In the meantime, stay off that damn suicide hotline. If you need to talk, call me instead. I'm in the book. I always screen, but if I see that it's you, I'll pick up.


Take care
Your buddy,
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